I recently had a friend ask me for advice on the subject of audio. She had been wanting to enter the world of VO (voice over) work and she wanted to do it without spending much, but she also wanted the best quality possible. Well, who doesn't want that eh?
I have worked as a professional audio engineer in recording studios, churches, theaters using everything from Beringer 10-channel boards on up to Crest 72-channel DAW systems. I have audio engineered everything from 60-person choirs with full orchestra to a simple one-on VO.
Today's level of available technology offers far more wonderful options than what I had starting out. Current audio software rivals what, just a few years ago, could only be achieved in a recording studio that charged hundreds per hour for studio time and space. Software-wise, I think the best option for DIY'ers is the open-source program Audacity. The quality is exceptional and it allows for multi-track recording which means you can layer separate music and sound effects tracks over a voice track. Or, if you are really going for gold, Audacity allows you to mix in non-linear time, a full band complete with drums (real drums, not that sampled garbage), guitars, keyboards as separate tracks. Now all you need is a good song writer, which is what's missing in today's "auto-tuned" music.
The best pairing with Audacity is the Blue Yeti microphone. At under $150, it delivers a level of capabilities that could only be achieved using three separate large condenser microphones (at four times the cost). The Yeti has three condenser cardiod patterns that can be switched in real time allowing for completely different patterns of input essentially making it three microphones in one. One setting even allows you to set the mic for dual-input meaning that you can place it between you and another person and conduct an interview using just the one mic. Wow.
But wait! It gets even better. The Yeti comes with standard USB connectors, so it can hook up to any computer, AND without any special software, works right away. In other words, you can start recording within seconds of plugging it in.
The last hurdle is finding a reasonably quiet place to record with surfaces that don't reflect a lot of sound back at you otherwise you will sound like you're recording at the bottom of a well, even with the Yeti. The space needs to be "flat". To make a space "flat", you can always string up some curtains (or any kind of fabric) to soften up the hard walls. Otherwise, you will get "slap back" as the sound reverbs back to the mic, and with VO you want to have as little of that as possible.
Anyway, my friend is going to be sending me some WAV and MP3 files soon. I can't wait.